It is reported that tax imposter scams are on the rise and the reason why this is an effective scam for criminals is because people believe them especially if the imposters are professionals. This type of scam is also an easy and inexpensive way to extract information from people.
Similar to any social engineering scam which uses pretexting to lure the victims into sophisticated identity theft scams, in a tax imposter scam, the caller may introduce himself to be a tax agent and the caller ID might even show the call to be from the tax entity.
The caller then goes on to say that you owe money, and that you need to pay immediately to avoid penalties and jail time, and that you can pay with a prepaid debit card or money transfer to stop all future harassments immediately.
Before you pay the amount that the caller is asking for, you should know that tax organizations do not contact people by phone or email for such requests and instead they send a formal mail. And, they don’t ask you to pay with a prepaid debit card money transfer but rather do not have a preference for a method of payment. The reason why tax scammers have a preference for specific payment methods is to make sure they cover their tracks to avoid detection and apprehension.
1. Don’t give any information until you trust the party – often people may just take imposters for their words and respond to their questions with complete and accurate information. This is not a wise approach until the identity of the caller is validated to make sure the person is not an imposter.
2. Ask for a call back number – one of the ways that people can validate the identity of a caller or any person who claims to be someone of authority asking us to take certain action or give information is to ask for a call back number and other information to see if the person mumbles and to perform a reverse search to see who the number belongs to and call the number to verify.
3. Write down all available call details – as you hear the caller respond, take notes and pay attention to as much details as possible.
4. Research the phone number – as mentioned, once you have the call back number, you can go on the Internet and search the number to see what comes up. You can also pay a service to do the search for you. This is a good option before you call back the number.
5. Call the call back number to test and verify – once you are done with your research of the phone number, you can call back to see who picks up the phone. Pay attention to details once again and notice how your call is received whether professionally or casually. If you get suspicious, hang up the phone and proceed to the next step.
6. Hang up the phone when in doubt – if the person is hesitant to give you the information, you should just hang up the phone. There is no point to waste your time once you are almost certain that this is a tax imposter scam.
7. Call the tax entity directly by finding the number on the Internet – you can find any company phone number on the Internet. In this case, just type your tax entity name and find their website. You can usually find a contact form, email address or a phone number to contact a tax agent.
8. Notify the authorities and file a complaint – if your efforts prove that you had been the target a tax imposter scam, you should notify the authorities.
9. Notify family and friends – finally, don’t forget to notify your family members and friends about the tax imposter scam that you just experienced. Tell them what happened and what they should do in case they experience a similar scam.
You should take these scams seriously and take all the necessary steps to avoid becoming a victim of such simple scams. These scams are so simplistic that people can't believe the scammers can so easily defraud others and get away with the crime. Yet, the number of people falling victims to these simple scams continues to rise. Be vigilant.
You should also remember that similar imposter scams may also appear to be from bill collectors and other organizations you already do business with.